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Posted: Jan 10, 2013
New program to exploit the potential of photosynthetic microalgae
(Nanowerk News) Microphyt has developed and deployed a high-performance technology that mass produces microalgae, which, in particular, makes it possible to grow fragile species in controlled conditions. While only a handful of species of microalgae are currently produced on an industrial scale, the technology being developed now, by reducing mechanical stress, extends the range of species that can be grown in photobioreactors.
These species include the genus Chlamydomonas, which has been the subject of a great deal of research, with 7,000 scientific papers and 130 patents registered, much of this by the CEA. Without a mass production system suitable for this species, it has not been possible to transfer certain laboratory results regarding commercial applications to industry. In its industrial reactors, Microphyt has successfully developed flows that do not damage the circulating cells. The two 5,000-liter units that are currently available, and which have been in operation since 2009 and 2010, have produced over 400kg of dry biomass from several fragile species, some of which are already being used in dermo-cosmetics available on the market.
From July to October 2012, Microphyt successfully and continuously cultivated a strain of Chlamydomonas in large enough quantities and under different metabolic conditions in order to be able to study their influence on the biochemical profile. “This success changes everything and has enabled us to launch the BOLERO program, which aims to further improve the performance of our technology and increase our range of molecules,” Arnaud Muller-Feuga, Chairman of Microphyt, explained.
The BOLERO program will identify the molecules with the most potential and will optimize their synthesis by selecting improved strains to increase production yields. It will also enhance the technology by means of a knowledge transfer from the CEA focused on solar technology.
A number of CEA teams are involved in this partnership: CEA-LITEN, in charge of technological research in new energy technology and CEA-iBEB, which is exploring the potential of microalgae within the framework of its HélioBiotec platform, in Cadarache.
Set up in Cadarache in 2009, the Héliobiotec platform brings together around twenty researchers, engineers, technicians, post-doctorate and doctorate researchers to work using cutting-edge equipment in a bid to explore the mechanisms involved in the transformation and storage of solar energy using microalgae, and to develop applications in various sectors, including the energy sector. In 2012, R&D focusing on biofuels expanded at the Cadarache research centre, thanks to the participation of teams from CEA-LITEN who, in particular, will be developing R&D relating to the processes and technologies for growing, harvesting and using microalgae.